To remember and to learn about this historic date, these best books on 9/11 are the best on the topic (both fiction and non-fiction), and they are all breathtaking “must-read” books — I kept this list small to include only the best to commemorate one of the most pivotal dates in American history. I highly recommend all of them for those that want to read the best books on 9/11.
Best 9/11 Books to Read
- The Day the World Came to Town – Best for those looking for a Canadian perspective on 9/11
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Best for those looking for an emotional, fictional account of 9/11
- The Looming Tower – Best for those looking to learn the backstory of 9/11
- The Only Plane in the Sky – Best for those looking for a minute by minute account of 9/11 from numerous perspectives
The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
Best for those looking for a Canadian perspective on 9/11
On September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks and after the U.S. airspace closed, 38 planes bound for the United States were forced to land in Gander International Airport in Canada. This small town on Newfoundland Island instantly doubled from 10,300 people to nearly 17,000 people, and the Canadian citizens welcomed the stranded passengers with friendship and goodwill in this unprecedented scenario.
Over the course of days, the passengers were stranded, many of the passengers developed friendships with the Gander residents and later paid them back with scholarships and donations.
The Day the World Came to Town is a unique book about 9/11 (non-fiction) from different perspectives than usual, focusing on how people came together even outside the central locations of the terrorist attacks.
I liked that it was a real book about Gander on 9/11 and showed even times when it was difficult for the persons involved to “do the right thing” under so much stress. Read The Day the World Came to Town if you are a fan of Come from Away, or if you are looking for something uplifting and/or if you seek very different perspectives of those in the United States at the time.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Best for those looking for an emotional, fictional account of 9/11
In New York Times bestselling 9/11 fiction book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 9-year-old Oskar is a precocious boy who idolizes Stephen Hawking and excels at tambourine playing. He’s also grieving his father’s death in the World Trade Center attacks. He searches New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key his father left behind and, in doing so, discovers much more than he could have imagined.
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
Best for those looking to learn the backstory of 9/11
The Looming Tower is the Pulitzer Prize winner and National Book Award Finalist that is a detailed, historical book about 9/11 (non-fiction) and the events leading up to it.
Spanning five decades, The Looming Tower explains the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the terrorist attacks.
Of interest is the storyline of FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill, as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles both physically and in dealing with the government to track this threat. It’s the plot of the gripping Hulu television series of the same name.
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff
My top pick from this list; best for those looking for a minute by minute account of 9/11 from numerous perspectives
New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky was one of the most breathtaking books I have ever read, so it’s definitely also one of the best books about 9/11 (non-fiction). It’s the type of book everyone should read.
It’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of the day of 9/11 told completely through the dialogue of five hundred people, from children in distant parts of the United States to the acting President of the United States, George W. Bush. It’s got to be the most thoroughly researched book I have ever read.
The award-winning audio version of The Only Plane in the Sky is told by an entire cast of narrators, and it’s one of my favorite audiobooks of all time (and I listen to books on a daily basis). It includes many real audio clips from 9/11, so at times it feels more like a documentary or a podcast.
If you are doing a 50 States of America reading challenge, this also makes a great book for New York.
It’s fascinating. It’s emotional. It’s raw. And it’s real. It’s a must-read.
For more, read my full review of The Only Plane in the Sky.